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Diplodocus dinosaur sells at auction for more than $650,000

Employee Julia Thomas poses with a diplodocus dinosaur skeleton named "Misty," at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, England, on Nov. 25, 2013. The skeleton sold to an anonymous bidder for $651,000 on Nov. 27.
REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The skeleton of a diplodocus dinosaur that roamed what is now the western United States some 160 million years ago was sold for 400,000 British pounds ($651,100) to an unidentified public institution at an auction in Britain on Wednesday.

The dinosaur, nicknamed Misty, was found by the teenage sons of German paleontologist Raimund Albersdoerfer when they were helping their father search for fossils in Wyoming four years ago.

The auctioneers, Summers Place Auction, declined to disclose any details about the buyer, who wished to remain anonymous. They said the buyer intends to put the skeleton on public display.

Diplodocus was a massive, long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur. This specimen -- a female -- was about 55 feet long.  It's one of only a few complete skeletons of diplodocus longus ever found. 

"Finding a reasonably complete diplodocus of this size is extremely rare," Errol Fuller, a natural history expert and curator of the sale, told Reuters by telephone from West Sussex in England. "They are only ever really found by luck."

The boys who discovered it came across Misty's fossilized bones after their father sent them to hunt in another area because they were distracting him from his own search. 

"The children wanted to find their own bits and pieces, so he sent them where he thought they might find a few fragments but nothing really important, and they came back saying that they had found this enormous bone," Fuller said.

Because the discovery was made on private rather than federal land, it was legal to remove the fossils from the United States. They were sent to Holland, where they were cleaned and assembled, and then to the UK for auction. 

At another highly publicized dinosaur auction earlier this month, the intertwined skeletons of two creatures known as the "Montana dueling dinosaurs" were pulled off the market after they failed to reach the reserve price. They were expected to fetch at least $7 million, but the highest bid was $5.5 million.